This book review of New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication is Reshaping Social Cohesion, the medium of mobile communication is examined on how it affects and changed communication channels. Social interaction changes with the advent of technology and therefore these new channels offer new insight on communication strengths and flaws. Co-presence, deference and demeanor, as well as mediated ritual are key terms coined throughout this book that offer a clear look into communication and how mobile technology has created new standards of communicating.
Behavior that was once viewed as rude is essential to common business and social practices and still plays an important role in ritual interaction. Interaction breeds social bonding and the most common form of interaction took place in the form of face-face-to communication. Now, new channels have been introduced and no matter how far or close individuals are to each other, they can still communicate with that closeness and intimacy as they would if sitting next or across from each other.
New Techs, New Ties:
How Mobile Communication Is Reshaping Social Cohesion
A day does not go by as a person walks down the street or down the aisle at the grocery store do they encounter a person on a mobile device. The daily witness prompted for further research into this topic, therefore this particular book was chosen to review and what followed was a refreshing look on how mobile technology and its devices are impacting communication. Of course, this revelation is a virtual no-brainer but mobile telephone usage, text messaging and other means of communicating have all but replaced traditional face-to-face (F-T-F) communication and thus has changed the social landscape (Ling, 2010).
Ling illustrates his point with scenarios he observed and shares his notes regarding the exchanges he witnessed. This approach brought out some interesting facts of society’s social pre-occupation with mobile devices. Often, a comment such as, “she has her head stuck in that phone” shows a clear span of time and technology change. Twenty years earlier, that comment might have been phrased differently such as “stuck to her ear”. The mediated social ritual is still present but text over talk is prevailing in twenty-first century communication.
The author brilliantly tied this in with Goffman’s “deference” “demeanor” as he described how individuals act, or more appropriately how they treat others and they change personas when they switch between non-business to business. It is in the absence of face-to-face communication that the individual can often “save face”. Often times, individuals often have to mix business and pleasure on one device and have to switch gears as situations demands. As Ling presented Collins (2004, p. 24) assertion, that Goffman was accurate in his description of front-stage and back-stage selves. Oftentimes people use the “backstage” as a preparation time so as to represent the best version of themselves to their intended audience. Perhaps, mobile communication minimizes the lack of preparation when an individual is on the “front stage”(Ling, 2010).
The notion of co-presence is an underlying theme and the hard question is asked continually through Ling’s study, is co-present interaction lost or diminished through mobile telephone use? Not exactly because he touts through his various observations that co-presence remains throughout mobile telephone use, and it actually strengthens familial ties. In the first chapter of the book, Ling gave an example of a woman on a London Subway who was conversing on her phone and another woman, she immediately paused her conversation and greeted the woman who approached her and then preceded to share her phone with the woman so she could exchange a greeting with the individual on the line.
From that first scenario, it is apparent how mobile technology involves the intersection of two different communication scenarios merged into one. Therefore, all individuals involved in the communication were not present in one location, but were able to connect. Thus revealing physical evidence that mobile technology can afford opportunities to connect and network despite distance or proximity of all individuals (Ling, 2010). As Ling (2010) stated, the “actual effervescence of the meeting aided in the achievement of cohesion between the group (the two ladies and the phone caller).
Figure 1.1: Cartoon depicts the common-place communication with the use of mobile technology
Ritual Interaction and Totems
Ling presents powerful theories from Durkheim and Goffman, pertaining to ritual interaction in daily life. Durkheim figuratively drew a straight line between ritual interaction and social cohesion due to a mutuality of mood and attitude, thus produces “solidarity” or unity among the parties involved in the interaction. However, all parties involved in the interaction must be equally invested in the thought process and feeling process of the situation in which they are engaging in. Ling suggests that perhaps, Durkheim’s assessment was a little too expansive for application to daily life.
Therefore, Ling seems to shift toward Goffman’s perspective of social interaction. Goffman’s assertion is that social interaction relates directly on the interpersonal level, which would better explain an application to the interaction that takes place every day. The influence and the cohesion exist just as Durkheim hypothesized but Goffman fails to incorporate how “telephony” plays a significant role but Ling seems to fill in the blanks with his own theories throughout the book. However, it would have been interesting to see how early telephony played a role in social cohesion before the introduction of mobile telephone technology.
Does the cell phone constitute or symbolize the individual? It may or may not but in the cartoon in Figure 1.1 on page four, it is evident that the joke is referring to symbolically to the situation of the mobile telephone. The couple depicted in the cartoon is stating the fact they paid almost fifty dollars for cell phone use and their interaction is not enhanced despite the technology or expense. It would seem as if, no matter how advanced mobile technology is, communication break-down will exist simply due to human behavior and selective hearing of one sex of the species. Another example, this scenario brings is Durkheim’s theory of a totem, which Goffman reaffirmed as a more of a symbol for an individual.
In fact, many individuals find their identity within their mobile and social “network”, just like a hand shake can often symbolize position, the people who are on an individual’s contact list on their mobile device or friend’s list on a social network site often lends to their position in the community and in the workplace (Ling, 2010).
The work of Goffman, Durkheim and Collins along with the clinical observations of Ling that ritual interaction is the cornerstone of communication. The main idea gained from this book ad Ling’s research is, that before the introduction of telephony, face-to-face communication was the primary source. Daily routines such as walking to work or grabbing a cup of coffee all happen with a mobile device close to the ear on in the hand. The next time a person is observed in a public place, it would be important to notice their level of engagement, where their eyes divert to, tone of voice, facial expression as well as body language. These non-verbal cues can lend much about the nature of the conversation and the amount of the commitment from the individuals on each end of the line. Even though there is no visual evidence of social cohesion between the two, just the implied evidence through the phone conversation.
If anything is lost in translation through the advent of mobile technology it could be only the art of face-to-face conversation. The obvious losses are the body language and non-verbal cues, however, voice can offer subtle cues and therefore re-training of decoding non-visual cues is in order. As the author lamented, regarding his exchange with a very preoccupied plumber, he supposes is just the picture of today’s society as people are continually juggling with the ethereal and the peripheral world. Automatically, everyone who comes into contact with someone who is stuck between the two planes, are naturally assigned a role, either as a focal point or a backdrop, unfortunately, we as individuals have to learn to be the backdrop most time in the name of social cohesion.
Ling, R. (2010). New tech, new ties: How mobile communication is reshaping social cohesion.
Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Figure 1.1 Cartoon depicts the common-place communication with the use of mobile
CHECK OUT THE AUTHOR’S SITE!: http://richardling.com/publications.php
In order for an organization to stay current and viable in the changing economic and global landscape, it is important to self-assess. First off, my company needs to look at two things: how it encourages innovation in its products and processes and what types of resources it will provide. In a way this mirrors the concept of the systems approach in that a “disconnected set of parts” as opposed to a “collection of parts which work together”. The whole objective of the systems approach is a how a company can become fully functional and be the “sum” of the parts” as Buckley (1967) eloquently coined (Eisenberg, Goodall, and Tretheway, 2014, p. 96). Below are three strategies that are derived from specific aspects of the systems approach; specifically Senge’s concept of the learning organization and Weick’s sense-model with the combination of pioneering organizational problem-solving models such as “out of the box” thinking. Below are three strong strategies that my company can employ to gain the competitive edge.
Strategy 1: With Senge’s theory of the “learning organization” there are five important characteristics: systems thinking, personal mastery, flexible mental models, shared vision and team learning. Of those five characteristics the three that would best serve a close focus would be systems thinking, shared vision and team learning (Eisenberg, Goodall and Tretheway, 2014, p. 109). Coupled with the concept that learning is achieved through experience, it is through the characteristics of team learning and shared vision that experience is shared and applied (Kim & Senge, 1994, p. 277). More specifically, it is imperative that organizations gain new competencies in learning if they are to remain sustainable in the ever-shifting global market (Kim & Senge, 1994, p. 278).
Strategy 2: Incorporate “out of the box” thinking in HR policies and hiring strategies. If this approach is used the company will attract those candidates who possess the characteristics capable and fostering and engaging in the generation of un-conventional avenues of approaching and solving organizational problems and meeting needs of the organization that are hard to achieve with a normal course of action (Nica, Popescu, and Mironescu, 2012, p. 490). Therefore, it would fall into the HR spectrum that would ensure the “human resource” is being adequately used, but the obvious draw-backs relate to limited available of adequate “human resources” and organizational factors such as decreased productivity, failing recruiting efforts among other deficiencies.
Strategy 3: Apply Weick’s sense-making model as contingent on the concept of organizational communication, which essentially means making “sense” of the communication message within the organization. Weick describes it as a process for uncovering hidden meaning behind an event or idea (Eisenberg, Goodall and Tretheway, 2014, p. 110). For example, the application of “out of the box” thinking and the communication messages sent from HR may at first seem foreign to other divisions within the organization, but with a modifications to the message being prepared by HR that will address how the implications will directly affect the processes of each division in the organization will garner more buy-in and support from the whole, thus illustrating the earlier assertion of the “sum of the parts”.
The preceding strategies integrate key facets of the systems approach along with “out of the box” thinking, will enable the organization to explore new avenues of revenue-generation, recruiting practices, which will involve four specific areas of performance metrics, integration and retention, utilization of multiple channels, and diagnostic assessment that will ensure sustainable growth for the organization (Nica, Popescu, and Mironescu, 2012, p. 491-492).
Do you think that “out of the box” thinking is a valid approach for promoting and fostering innovation from employees in an organization or just a buzz word to motivate employees into finding unique solutions to organizational issues?
Eisenberg, E.M., & Goodall, H.L. & Tretheway, A. (2014). Organizational communication: balancing creativity and constraint. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.
Kim, D. H., & Senge, P. M. (1994). Putting systems thinking into practice. System Dynamics Review (Wiley), 10(2/3), 277-290.
Nica, E., Popescu, G. H., & Mironescu, A. (2012). Working paper concerning the out-of-thebox thinking upon hr policies and procedures evaluation. Global Conference on Business & Finance Proceedings, 7(2), 490-495.
Former AT&T CEO Robert Greenleaf said it best with his statement: “servant leadership begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve—to serve first” (Dolan, 2013). The problem with leadership in organizations today is the lack of focus; or the lack of focus on serving, not just customers but the employees who are more than just the labor force but a partner in meeting organizational objectives. As the concept of servant leadership gains popularity among organizational leaders, it is important to note that Servant Leadership is not a new idea and though it may be “new” to the corporate organizational structure, there is one organizational structure which has always operated on this principle and that is non-profits, service organizations such as Boy Scout of America and academic institutions. It is important to expound that Servant Leadership is not just the simple act of serving but incorporating servitude into goals and objectives of organizational activities and procedures.
The goal of this study is to present how an organization’s mission statement or core values and vision statement plays a part in that organization’s practice and application of the principles of the organization’s mission and values as shown in its interaction with its employees, clients or customers, and stake-holders. The organization which will be the focus of this study, is my present employer, the University of Arkansas Community College-Hope in Hope, Arkansas. An ideological analysis will be conducted on the college’s mission statement to infer if the organization’s true core values and beliefs are reflected in the statement. Clues which will reveal the sincerity of the statement will be found in key words located in the statement, verbal evidence which will gleaned from personal interviews and testimonials from faculty, staff, administration and alumni. Using Likert’s principle of supportive relationships, it will a secondary goal to use the mission statement and evidence gathered from interviews and testimonials to deduce how the organization truly practices “participation” as classified by System IV, from the members and stakeholders of the organization (Eisenberg, Goodall and Tretheway, 2014).
Among the literature to support the thesis of this project, it is evident that many academic and non-profit organization’s use the principles of the Boy Scouts of America’s three pronged approach of service to “service to God, country, and community” (Rhom & Osula, 2013). It is an expectation that the manner in which the academic organization demonstrates true Servant Leadership will provide a framework for the corporate world to follow suit. The “bottom of the pyramid approach” taken by big corporations, which operated on ideal of raising poverty-stricken sectors of society by direct marketing tactics. Interestingly, academic institutions; especially community colleges have been operating on this ideal for many years by marketing the upgrading of skills to the under-served sector of the population (Gupta, 2013).
A non-academic source that I found particularly intriguing as I researched the topic of servant leadership is the book called The Servant by James C. Hunter and its application as a wake-up call for distant and faltering leaders. The book offers a haunting commentary on importance of serving and that the term serving means more than just giving but engaging, molding and shaping: http://www.jameshunter.com/books.htm.
Dolan, T. C. (2013). Aspirations of a servant leader. Healthcare Executive, 28(6), 30-38.
Eisenberg, E.M., & Goodall, H.L. & Tretheway, A. (2014). Organizational
communication:balancing creativity and constraint. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.
Gupta, S. (2013). Serving the “Bottom of Pyramid” – A Servant Leadership Perspective. Journal
Of Leadership, Accountability & Ethics, 10(3), 98-106.
Rohm Jr., F. W., & Osula, B. (2013). Scouting and Servant Leadership in Cross-cultural
Perspective: An Exploratory Study. Journal Of Virtues & Leadership, 3(1), 26-42.
THE HUMAN RESOURCES FUNCTION
A Human Resources department is important to the functions of an organization where employee relations and resources are concerned. Simply defined, Human Resources are: “The department or support systems responsible for personnel sourcing and hiring, applicant tracking, skills development and tracking, benefits administration and compliance with associated government regulations” (Entrepreneur, 2014). The Human Resources Function of an organization is directly rooted in the concept of the human relations perspective and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The importance of the Human Resource approach deals primarily with the organizational environment and how the organization can cultivate employee participation that will lead to innovation and creativity. As a result, advancement of organizational goals and position in the global marketplace will occur (Eisenberg, Goodall, and Tretheway, 2014, p. 82).
Human Resources as a title or most importantly as a concept, is the arm of the organization in charge with finding, selecting and training talent to carry out the functions of an organization as well as the gatekeeper of employee benefits. A deeper definition also refers to the aspect “job design” to human resources and providing guidance to management in attracting and keeping top talent in order to remain competitive in the global market (Investopedia, 2014).
WHY HUMAN RESOURCES?
Why would an organization need a Human Resources Department? The reason lies in the fact that the “human resource” is a very fragile and variable resource that changes with social and economic conditions. Maslow’s research showed that a human’s need for self- actualization leads toward an individual reaching his or her full potential. Human Resources is the branch that is concerned with the on-going development and enhancement of that variable and valuable resource as described in the Functions section of this post (Eisenberg, Goodall, and Tretheway, 2014, p. 82).
In my views, the essential functions of a human resources division are static across organizations and do not vary: (1) Recruitment (2) Employee Relations, (3) Compensation and Benefits, (4) Compliance (5) Training and Development and (6) Safety (Mayhew, 2014). All six functions are the foundation for the operation of the organization. Without human resources, does an organization really exist? That question may seem irrational but it actually is a valid point. The movement of the 60s and 70s ushered in these six functions and because of this as Miller (2009) found, the human resources function of an organization is seen as the answer to the classical management approach which treated employees as life-less components of the well-oiled machine of an organization. When in fact, it is the employee who is the incentive for which company decisions are reliant upon (p. 51).
COMPLEXITIES AND REAL-LIFE APPLICATION
If the past ignorance by management regarding the true essence of the value of the organization’s human resources, it seems now the new-found appreciation of the human resource is backfiring on management. It is as if the role of management is becoming secondary and that is due to the powerful purchasing influence possessed by the consumer and that leads to the view that an employee is no longer hired because he or she can take directions well to build a product, but rather how well the employee is able to perform job tasks which produce products which match consumer expectations. A “real-life application” can be found in many companies throughout the world. Today, organizations are zeroed in on the following: self-sufficiency, goal feedback and revision, hands-on management style, direct access, shared culture/mission. These aspects are found among many organizations such as Aramark, Whole Foods, and IBM, UPS and even Facebook). Therefore, the physical assembly line approach is no longer applicable to the efficiency of organization, it is now taking on a deeper, more conceptualized arrangement of job goals and functions and tasks which will meet those goals (Bersin, 2012).
Sadly, it seems the true concept of human resources division of an organization is slowly fading into the past, as human resources is becoming more of an endless cycle of changes due to laws and legislative actions. The “human” in human resources is still emphasized but the need for leadership (i.e. management) seems to be waning. If HR and management is focused on structuring employee and organizational functions, then the HR approach at the organization is truly outdated in an ineffective (Bersin, 2012).
Bersin, J. (2012, March 26). Have traditional human resources practices become out of date. Retreived from: http://www.bersin.com/blog/post/Have-Traditional-Human-Resources-Practices-Become-Out-of-Date.aspx
Eisenberg, E.M., & Goodall, H.L. & Tretheway, A. (2014). Organizational communication: balancing creativity and constraint. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.
Human Resources. (n.d.) In Entrepreneurship, Retrieved November 2, 2014 from http://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/printthis/human-resources
Human Resources (HR). (n.d.) In Investopedia, Retrieved November 2, 2014, from http://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/human-resources
Mayhew, R. (2014). Six main functions of a human resources department. Small Business Chron. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/six-main-functions-human-resource-department-60693.html.
Miller, K. (2009). Organizational communication: Approaches & processes. (5th ed.). NY: Wadsworth. Chapter 3.
Does Classic Management Still Have a Place in Today’s Organizations?
The organizational landscape is varied like the physical landscape; eroded and weathered due to shifts caused by elements of globalization and economic change. If any industry can identify with this analogy it’s the manufacturing sector; more specifically, U.S. auto manufacturers. With government bail-outs, sales fluctuations, and down revenues; the automobile manufacturing industry has experienced shifts and re-structuring. Historically, auto manufacturing is the poster-child for classical management; the industry where it began. However, if a company can remain competitive and viable in a changing global market; it will provide the proof that the classical management still belongs in the organizational landscape.
Ford Motor Company is an excellent example of a classical management approach to operations. When founder, Henry Ford designed and developed his assembly line system, the principles of the system were based on Frederick Taylor’s to-down management approach. Top-down management consists of decision-making at the top and then labor performed on the floor. In the early century the approach was revolutionary until globalization. As with many industries, auto makers had to incorporate a global center to business operations in order to stay competitive. Presently, Ford’s business model operates as a “whole” unit model instead of in divisions. The goal is to offer all product lines globally and not as segments (Keegan, 2011). Through the economic recovery period in the country, Ford revealed market projections predicting plans to increase the production rate to 200,000 trucks over the next year (Miller & Matthews, 2013).
Global and economic demands call for a competitive company with employee buy-in and a lean management approach. Home Depot adopted lean management with a literal army training approach to even minute details from inventory control to store management (Grow, Brady, & Ardnt, 2006). Classical management served the Ford Company well, for many years; however, the approach treated the labor force as machines and management was free to make decision with minimal employee consideration. A viable company will be “thinking” and “investigating”, employees will be highly skilled and trained in innovation, not just labor. Such a company will draw in customers and foster loyalty to the brand (Shook, 2008).
Grow, B., Brady, D., and Arndt, M. (2006). Renovating home depot. Bloomburg Businessweek. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2006-03-05/renovating-home-depot
Keegan, M.C. (2011). What is the Ford Motor Company business model? Houston Chronicle.Retrieved from http://www.smallbusiness.chron.com.
Miller, R., & Matthews, S. (2013). The long, slow, but still-going recovery. Bloomberg Businessweek. (4334), 14-17.
Shook, J. (2008). What is lean management? In Lean Enterprise Institute. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from http://www.lean.org/shook/displayobject.cfm?o=1447.
Once again, with the project I saw the limits of my creativity pushed and the understanding of the content expanded even more. The intent of this project is to further examine how common miscommunications can cause misunderstandings and problems in the workplace culture. Technology, as much as a benefit, as it is in a thorn in the proverbial side at times, has created new avenues in which miscommunication can travel. However, the results may be more dramatic because communication via technology is a more public sense. Therefore, it is very easy for a small lapse in judgment or carelessness to erupt into a major communication crisis with full-reaching effects, such as ruined careers and a threat to the security of the organizational communication structures.
Communication has become very easy since the introduction of personal computers and digital devices. It would be hard to imagine how to communicate without these advances. However, the potential dangers would be minimal and maybe less of a headache. However, progress would be slowed and many other advances would not be made, so it is simply a matter of accountability and self-responsibility of how to use technology in the correct manner. Etiquette, or Netiquette, which is commonly referred to, ensures safety, security and preserves professional relationships. Netiquette involves much more than just how to correspond via e-mail, voice chats and other mediums but more about how to professionally communicate and promote efficiency in the workplace.
Media production for this project seemed a little more complex. I believe it is due to the reason that many different media aspects were combined into one project. It is not that it was hard but that it was an involved process for me due to my limited experience with these tools. I had to incorporate a couple of tools to create my presentation, first was my smartphone to record my introductory video and second was Screencast-O-Matic, a tool I learned to use last spring in my first communications courses here at Queens. In my opinion the best method to incorporate for a media project is the multimodal approach (video, images, and sound). With this approach the audience will become more engaged in the topic and enjoy a visual presentation that will ensure clear comprehension of the concepts presented.
My limits and scope are being stretched which is good and difficult at the same time! I do believe I may be making the process a little more complicated and it simply due to my limited knowledge of the tools available in amateur media production. As I continue in this program it will be to my advantage to invest time in exploring and experimenting with these tools so that I will have the proper tools available to craft a meaningful presentation. These projects this term have spurred me to research and experiment in a small amount of time, which at that moment was stressful but it taught me a great lesson and spurs me to invest time in learning how to produce future presentations with ease!